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Friday, December 7, 2012

Where was Atlantis? Sundaland fits the bill, surely!


Where was Atlantis? Sundaland fits the bill, surely!
by Dr. Sunil Prasannan

Dr. Sunil Prasannan takes a brief time-out from his NMR spectroscopic studies to suggest a Southeast Asian location for Atlantis as described in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias.
OK, so I’m an orthodox scientist, but don’t let that bother you – I’m really an OK guy! As I have already explained on the Mysteries message board, I don’t intend this to be an exhaustive essay, but as I have been asked for more detail, I will gladly provide it. Neither do I wish to pretend I am the first to hypothesise a Southeast Asian location for Atlantis [1].

In the first instance, I think it pertinent to remind readers of the passage in Graham Hancock’s best-selling Fingerprints of the Gods, where a research assistant of his resigns over not being able to find a suitable candidate location for a lost civilization, given certain criteria that such a civilization would have needed to be viable. I will reproduce the passage, quoted in the resignation letter, below:
“So, if you are looking for a hitherto undiscovered civilization of great originators, who made it on their own, separate from any of the ones we already know, you are not looking for a needle in a haystack. You are looking for something more like a city in its hinterland. What you are looking for is a vast region which occupied a land area at least a couple of thousand miles across. This is a landmass as big as the Gulf of Mexico, or twice the size of Madagascar. It would have had major mountain ranges, huge river systems and a Mediterranean to sub-tropical climate which was buffered by its latitude from the adverse effects of short-term climate cooling. It would have needed this relatively undisturbed climate to last for around ten thousand years…. Then the population of several hundred thousand sophisticated people, we are to believe, suddenly vanished, together with their homeland, leaving very little physical trace, with only a few surviving individuals who were shrewd enough to see the end coming, wealthy enough and in the right place, with the resources they needed to be able to do something about escaping the cataclysm.” [2]
So, a major requirement is a large enough area that would have supported an entire lost civilization, but at the same time, this area would have left no visible trace of its existence. Of course, the above statement, as well as Fingerprints itself, were written before the latest developments in ‘inundation mapping’ were widely available, this being the computer simulation, using all known variables, of sea-levels in epochs past. As mentioned in Graham’s latest book, Underworld, the land area thought to have been lost during the meltdown at the end of the Ice Age would have been something like 25,000,000 square kilometres, assuming a ball park figure of 100 metres of sea-level rise [3]. Much of this would have been relatively narrow strips of land parallel to modern coastlines, such as those off much of Africa, but in other places, such as the Persian Gulf and off the coast of NW India, significant areas were inundated. But would there have been anywhere in the world where a continent-sized, or near-continent-sized, landmass would have been lost forever?
Sure there was! The Sunda Shelf off modern Indonesia, Malaysia and Indo-China, which at LGM (last glacial maximum, about 16,000 years ago) would have been a gigantic plain, ‘Sundaland’ (not to be confused with the English town on the river Wear!), linking together the three countries above into a single peninsula-shaped landmass twice the size of India (itself 3,000,000 sq. km. in area today) [4]. Mention also has to be made of the considerable land bridge joining nearby New Guinea with modern Australia, forming ‘Sahul’, or ‘Greater Australia’, which would also have incorporated Tasmania [5].
As for mountains and rivers, yes, Sundaland would have had them in abundance, the mountains of course still with us today due to their loftiness, in Sumatra, Java and Borneo in particular [6]. Underwater mapping of the Sunda Shelf reveals that modern rivers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Indo-China would have been extended and would often combine to form much bigger rivers in the area inundated [7]. And of course, being smack-bang on the equator, this region must surely have enjoyed a warm climate, for thousand of years either side of LGM. So this must have seemed like a veritable Garden of Eden to the multitude of people who would surely have taken advantage of this Ice Age refugium to settle long term and develop any civilized culture, and consequent technology.
How does the Atlantis story come into all this? Well, we know that the Greek philosopher, Plato, wrote the only known account referring directly to Atlantis. In his dialogues, Timaeus, and Critias [widely available on-line, such as at 8], dating from about 360BC, he tells the story of how the much earlier Greek philosopher, Solon, visited Egypt in about 600BC, and learnt of Atlantis from a priest. One of the key features in the priest’s description of Atlantis was its size, being some sort of landmass (whether ‘island’ or ‘continent’) ‘bigger than Libya and Asia combined’, that was lost ‘in a single day and night of misfortune’. Of course, in Classical times, Asia was simply Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and Libya was the northern Mediterranean coast of Africa. And, of course, size has been alluded to above as a prerequisite for a landmass supporting a lost civilization. I have already provided evidence for Sundaland as an ideal candidate location for a lost civilization (and I am in no way suggesting it was the only location for antediluvian civilization), but is there anything in Plato’s works to suggest that it wasthe lost civilization known as Atlantis?
I suppose the best way to go about this is to simply pick out passages in Timaeus or Critias, not in any particular order, and rationalize them in terms of Sundaland and/or modern Indonesia and its neighbours. So, above I have already hinted at the size given for Plato’s Atlantis, and I shouldn’t really have to repeat hereafter the observation that the inundated areas of Sundaland formed perhaps the largest continuous stretch of territory inundated at the end Ice Age. So the line:
“larger than Libya and Asia [Minor] combined” [9]
is highly applicable to Sundaland. Is there any other information Plato gives for the location of Atlantis? Yes:
“this island was the way to the other islands; and from these you may pass to the to the opposite continent, which encompasses the true ocean” [10]
The ‘way to the other islands’ could be a reference to Oceania, including, of course, the enlarged ‘Sahul’, greater Australia, which would have combined Oz, Tasmania and New Guinea. Also, Plato (or rather, Solon’s priestly guide) could have had the myriad Polynesian islands in mind too. Finally, of course, ‘the opposite continent’ must be a reference to the Americas, which if you stop to think about it, is ‘opposite’ whether you sail west from Europe or Africa, or eastwards from Asia. Clearly, irrespective of any controversy regarding the location of Atlantis, this demonstrates pre-Columbian knowledge of there being an American continent. But, Sunil, you may ask, what about the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ that are also mentioned in bothTimaeus and Critias? This is something that I feel needs much deeper interpretation, for reasons I make clearer near the end of this piece. Therefore, if you’ll bear with me, I will skip this reference for now.
So what about the when and how regarding the demise of Atlantis? Apparently, this was said to be the time frame between Solon’s visit to Egypt, and the cataclysm that destroyed Atlantis:
“nine thousand was the sum of years that had elapsed”[11]
Uncannily, this statement does tie in well with the latest scientific research into the meltdown at the end of the Ice Age [12]. The bulk of the submerged Sunda Shelf was inundated relatively rapidly between 14,000 and 11,000 years ago [13]. Whilst much of the territory would have been lost in the first of three ‘global superfloods’, 14,000 years ago, almost all the antediluvian continental shelf would have been inundated during the second flood roughly 11,000 years ago [14]. The only significant event of the third superflood of approximately 7,500 years ago would have been the opening of the Strait of Malacca between Malaya and Sumatra [15]. If we forgive him for omitting the first flood, either Plato’s observation of events 11,600 years ago is just a fluke, or we could justifiably speculate that the Egyptians did keep records, or at least traditions, that dated back to the epoch of 9,600 BC. In fact, there is an allusion to the three superfloods in Plato’s account, for the Egyptian priest tells Solon:
“you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones” [16]
So perhaps such records did exist! Plato clearly alludes to unfavourable maritime conditions caused by underwater debris and obstacles in the region of the sunken Atlantis landmass after its demise, both in Timaeus:
“…the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.” [17]
and again in Critias:
“[the sea] became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.” [18]
The present day South China Sea in the vicinity of the sunken Sunda Shelf is very shallow for such a large expanse of water, being never much deeper than 50 to 60 metres [19]. This is in sharp contrast to the precipitous depths of the Atlantic or the Pacific. We could speculate that along with catastrophic flooding, seismic activity could have occurred, which would have introduced significant amounts of volcanic ash and debris into the newly formed South China Sea. Krakatoa, of 1883 explosion fame [20], could well have been involved, this volcano having once stood proudly between Sumatra and Java.
OK, you might say, but is there any more specific information in the Dialogues to suggest a Southeast Asian location for Atlantis? In Critias, there is much to suggest the climate was lush and tropical, for instance:
“that sacred island that then beheld the light of the sun” [21]
This could be an archaic version of the modern English ‘seeing the light of day’, ie. to exist (before the flood, Sundaland saw the light of day, afterwards it no longer did, because it was underwater), but suppose it could refer to the altitude of the sun above of the horizon. An alternative translation of the same phrase is given below:
“that sacred island, then still beneath the sun” [22]
If a tropical latitude was implied by Plato, this could explain his choice of words, because the sun would be very much higher in the sky at midday than in the temperate region of the Mediterranean. Indeed, at the equator, which neatly bisects the Indonesian region, the sun appears directly overhead! I admit, I am only speculating here, but what else in the Dialogues could point to a lush, fertile environment?
“the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses of life….also whatever fragrant things there are now in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flowers grew and thrived in that land” [23]
Quite a paradise it seems, doesn’t it?! Exotic fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices too. Another, perhaps bigger clue to a tropical, and not temperate, climate is given below:
“Twice in the year they gathered the fruits of the earth – in winter having the benefit of the rains of the heavens, and in the summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the canals.” [24]
Surely this suggests a climate driven by a seasonal monsoon, as is the case in much of southern and Southeastern Asia today? By ‘winter’, Plato refers to the wet season, and ‘summer’ would refer to the dry season. Of course, there must have been some difference from the pattern today, due to slight cooling during the Ice Age, and the extra landmass that Sundaland presented to any weather system coming in off the ocean. Also, it is clear from the above passage that the Atlanteans devised effective irrigation schemes, an issue that I’ll return to below.
Apparently, the land that was Atlantis was extensively forested, because Plato makes a number of references to the number of trees, as well as the resultant amount of timber available to the Atlanteans:
“there was an abundance of wood for carpenters” [25]
and slightly later:
“and much wood was available of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.” [26]
and even in a ‘grove’ in the capital city:
“[there were] all manner of trees of wonderful height and beauty owing to the excellence of the soil” [27]
The latter passage surely conveys the picture of a region dominated by tropical rainforest, does it not? We know the Indonesian islands today have Asia’s largest total rainforest area, some 113 million hectares (279 million acres) in 1990 [28]. And Malaysia’s rainforests cover some 63% of its total area of 330,000 sq. km. (128,000 sq. miles) [29]. Of course, the figures today would be significantly smaller, due to extensive logging, but who knows just how extensive the forests would have been on the plain now forming the Sunda Shelf, that was flooded at the end of the Ice Age?
He also makes a curious, but rather specific, reference to ‘elephants’ roaming the lost Atlantis:
“there were a great number of elephants in the island; for there was ample provision for food for all sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal that is the largest and most voracious of all.” [30]
Maybe it’s my Indian origins (I was born in Kerala after all), but the very mention of elephants immediately brings southern and Southeastern Asia, and Africa too, to mind. Although, I do concede, Africa would include the Atlantic seaboard of Morocco, and Mastodons were around in Florida at the end of the Ice Age, though the latter didn’t outlive it. However, bearing in mind what Plato wrote about the climate and vegetation (see above), it is clear conditions were lush enough to support a large population of pachyderms. And although no exact species are specified, many other kinds of animals are mentioned, and those ‘that live in lakes and marshes and rivers’ could have included crocodiles and the like.
Also intriguing is the physical description of the landscape, which does paint a reasonably accurate picture of the Sundaland region as it would have been during the Ice Age:
“The whole country was said by [Solon] to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain…smooth and even, and of an oblong shape” [31]
Sundaland, as it was, would have had high mountains along the south coast, in the present day islands of Sumatra and Java, and also in the east, in Borneo, and all three regions would have been immediately bounded by the main ocean, but the central portion, now forming the submerged Sunda Shelf, would indeed have been a flat plain [32]. A further geographical feature is described, namely:
“near the plain again, in the centre of the island….there was a mountain not very high on any side” [33]
Could this be a reference to the present day island of Natuna Besar, part of Indonesia, but halfway between peninsula Malaya (west Malaysia) and northern Borneo (east Malaysia)? The highest point on the island is 959 metres above sea level [34], and adding a maximum 100m for the lower sea level during the Ice Age would not make it much higher than 1060 metres, comparable to Mount Snowdon in Wales, UK [35]. This would make it ‘not very high’ if compared to the much loftier peaks in Malaya, Sumatra, Java and Borneo, regularly soaring to well over 2,000 or even 3,000 metres in height above the modern sea level. While there are other much smaller (and flatter) islands in the vicinity, Natuna Besar surely must be the best candidate for the mountain described in Critias.
This is as much as I feel I need to discuss regarding the environment and climate. What about human activity? Is there any sign of any technology applied by the Atlanteans? Well, it seems there a number of activities described in Critias, and that we could reconcile with a Southeast Asian location for the civilization described. The first of these is the construction of an effective and extensive irrigation system, as described in passages such as that below:
“The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial….Further inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea.” [36]
Dr. Stephen Oppenheimer, in his Eden in the East, suggests that there are visible signs of settled agriculture in the Southeast Asian region at least as early as those in the Middle East. For instance, the cultivation of rice, which needs a fair amount of irrigation, seems to have been undertaken in the Malay Peninsula as early as 9,000 years ago, about 2,000 years before the first signs in India or China [37]. A similar date is given for the extensive drainage of swamps by the New Guinea Highlanders to grow crops such as taro [38]. Although the latter site is not in Sundaland, it is not terribly far away, and we could speculate that it was descendants of refugees from the flooded Sunda Shelf who could have been responsible for these very early signs of irrigation in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course, the Malay and New Guinea sites are both above water; no underwater archaeology has been undertaken on the Sunda Shelf. How can we rule out even earlier dates here?
Another aspect of human endeavour is an allusion to a vast trade network in the region:
“For because of the greatness of their empire, many things were brought to them from foreign countries….meanwhile they went on constructing [their] harbours and docks” [39]
Is there any evidence of Southeast Asia being a hub of oceanic commerce in deepest antiquity? According to Stephen Oppenheimer, yes – kinda! The evidence available, sadly, doesn’t go as far back as the epoch of 11,500 years ago, but what is known is that there are definite signs of a cultural and genetic diffusion from Southeast Asia dating from at least 7,000 years ago, the epoch of the third global superflood [40]. For instance, there are 6,000 year-old statuettes found as far apart as Mesopotamia and New Guinea depicting rather Oriental looking ladies with slanting eyes, and a type of skin scarification (performed ritually) found today only in Oceania [41]. So there must have been available the kind of ships capable of sailing right across the Indian Ocean. After all, the Malagasy people of Madagascar speak an Austronesian language related to modern Indonesian [42]. Populations as far apart as Polynesia, Korea, Australia, India and the Middle East show both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA links with the population of Southeast Asia [43]. An example is Thalassaemia, an anaemia associated with resistance to Malaria, which is endemic in a vast arc of territory stretching from the Western Mediterranean and Southern Africa right across to northern Australia and farthest Polynesia [44]. This suggests some degree of settlement by peoples from Sundaland in the areas mentioned above.
Also consideration has to be made of the ‘Sundadont’ teeth mentioned by Graham Hancock in Underworld, found in the deepest habitation layer in Mehrgarh, in Pakistan, the oldest known settlement in the Indian subcontinent (7,000BC) [45]. However this type of shovel-like incisor, associated with Southeast Asian populations, died out by the time of the next habitation layer. I, like Graham, suggest that the ‘Sundadont’ people who founded Mehrgarh could have moved inland to western Pakistan from the flooding of the wide continental shelf off northwestern India between 14,000 and 7,000 years ago [46]. Interestingly, the inundation maps for the second global superflood of approximately 11,000 years ago show little changefrom the situation following the first of approximately 14,000 years ago [47]. Of course that would mean that there were Southeast Asians living on India’s northwest coast before the epoch of 9,500BC, but because the Mehrgarh teeth were in actual fact not true Sundadont, but ‘Sundadont’-like [48], a degree of intermarriage could perhaps have occurred with the native Indian tribes, who have the ‘European’ dental complex, by the time of their final migration inland.
Another tantalising piece of evidence is the Cantino Map of c.1502 [49]. This early Portuguese map of the world shows what can only be a fair representation of Southeast Asia (and India) as it would have appeared during the Ice Age – namely a massive peninsula approximating to the Sunda Shelf. As the Portuguese only reached Malacca on the Malay Peninsula in 1509 [50], obviously someone must have had the need, and ability, to map the Indonesian region upwards of 7,000 years ago. And, of course, knowing that there are underwater structures off the coast of India (such as Poompuhur [51]), as well as off Taiwan (such as Yonaguni [52]), that were likely to have been above water 11,000 years ago, demonstrates there would indeed have been plenty of scope for a trading network centred on southeast Asia in such a distant epoch.
The third major application of technology seems to be that of both mining of metal ores, and the manufacture of metal alloys. In Critias, Plato informs us:
“they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusile” [53]
and, also, that the citadel in the capital city was coated in various kinds of metals:
“The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of bronze, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.” [54]
I wish not to be drawn on exactly what ‘orichalcum’ was. I understand it was some sort of brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) [55]. But the mention of bronze (an alloy of copper and tin), and tin itself, suggests that the Atlanteans had a considerable amount of both copper and tin available, considering the observation they were covering whole walls with them. And are not modern Indonesia and Malaysia two of the world’s largest producers of tin, as well as having significant copper reserves, along with several other metals? [56] As far as tin goes, only Brazil and China produce more. Much of Indonesia’s tin is extracted from offshore ‘placer’ deposits, and in fact, it is thought that about 40% of Indonesia’s potential reserves are actually offshore, on the Sunda Shelf! [57] The neighbouring countries of Malaysia and Thailand also have significant tin deposits, including ‘placers’. In fact, the three Southeast Asian countries produce approximately one third of all the tin metal in the world [58].
Following on from the description of the citadel above is the curious passage describing the layout of the capital:
“Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in width……All this including the zones and bridge, which was the sixth part a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea passed in.”[59]
How can this not be interpreted as a mandalic construction, similar to (for example) Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a massive temple which consists of internesting rectangles surrounded by a moat and connected to the surrounding country by causeways [60]? Could the ‘sea’ and ‘bridges’ Plato described have really been a moat and causeways similar to those of Angkor and its surrounding temples? The mandala motif seems to be a hallmark of Indian and Southeast Asian temples built to Hindu or Buddhist specifications. But what really got the hairs raised on the back of my neck, even a chill down my spine, is the location of Angkor – because 11,600 years ago, Cambodia would have been an integral part of the antediluvian Sundaland landmass! So what, you might ask, given that Angkor was built sometime between the 9th and 13th centuries AD [61], some 10,000 years after the demise of Atlantis as rendered by Plato? We know that the ‘modern’ sites of Angkor and its neighbours were actually built on ‘primeval mounds’ dating back to the deepest antiquity, probably dated by the so-called ‘Draco correlation’ high-lighted by Graham in his Heaven’s Mirror to 10,500 BC [62]. Let’s assume this correlation is both correct with respect to the constellations and in the correct time-frame – could it have been survivors of the flooding of the lower-lying regions of Sundaland to the south of Cambodia who first began venerating the ‘primeval mounds’? Speculation, speculation, speculation, I know, but I’m going to return to this theme later!
Well, this is as much of the descriptions of Atlantis in the Dialogues that I feel I need touch on. At this stage, I’m not suggesting that it definitely was Sundaland, but hopefully I have illustrated how the data fits Southeast Asia very well.
However, there is one other thing, and that is I have to point out a weird inconsistency in Plato’s account that I feel needs to be put in context with respect to Atlantis’ location. We are led to believe that there was a war between Atlantis (which had conquered Egypt) and the Hellenic city-state of Athens, which would of course mean that Athens would have to be as old as Atlantis before inundation in 9,600 BC. An example from Timaeus is given below:
“and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes.” [63]
And yet, somewhat earlier in Timaeus, the Egyptian priest pointedly ridicules Solon (and by implication all Greeks) by telling him this:
“O, Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children, and there is not an old man among you” [64]
What on earth could be going on here? Why this complete and utter contradiction regarding the venerability of the Hellenes? But, we needn’t speculate too much, because in Critias, Plato seems to partially explain what could be going on:
“you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of several names and when copying them out again translated them into our language.” [65]
Could it have been the case that what actually happened was that Solon had ‘Hellenised’ a tale originating in Egypt, transposing ‘foreign’ places for those of a more Mediterranean setting? Moreover, we have to consider Plato’s own role, given that the era of 360BC was one of increasing Greek confidence. The story of a ‘war’ in the Mediterranean region itself could be apocryphal, giving a jingoistic edge to the whole saga. I think the following line in Timaeus suggests this to a high degree:
“Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities” [66]
After all, orthodox history tells us the only civilizations on the northern side of the Mediterranean dated from about 2,000BC at the earliest, these being Mycenae on the Greek mainland and the earlier Minoan civilization on Crete [67]. Neither could possibly have been around 11,600 years ago. The only likely candidate would have been the mysterious civilization on Malta, though this island, which at the end of the Ice Age would have formed a lengthy land bridge stretching all the way to Italy via Sicily [68], would surely have been too far west to have been considered a ‘primeval Athens’. Which brings me neatly back to the four words I so eloquently avoided in my explanation earlier in this essay for the location of Atlantis. Yes, that’s right: the Pillars of Heracles! Plato writes in Timaeus that Atlantis was:
“situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles” [69]
This would obviously be the present day Strait of Gibraltar, if put in a Greek, Mediterranean context. But if there was a degree of borrowing undertaken by either Solon or Plato, as alluded to in the passages quoted immediately above, where else could ‘Pillars of Heracles’ have been situated? There are two other straits situated in the Middle East, both to the east of Egypt and Greece, both joining smaller seas with the main Ocean (Indian Ocean in this case). These are the Strait of Hormuz at the eastern end of the Persian Gulf, and the Bab-el-Mandeb, at the southern end of the Red Sea [70]. Since the latter is situated so much closer to Egypt, I suspect that the Bab-el-Mandeb could have been the ‘Pillars’ in the original, assuming the Egyptians referred to them as such – they certainly wouldn’t have named them after the Greek hero Heracles! However, it is possible it wouldn’t have been completely navigable 11,600 years ago, because it is relatively shallow in parts [71]. Which then points at Hormuz, which according to the data of Kurt Lambeck [72] would have been a small inlet, not a strait, 16,400 years ago, but would have opened up completely by 10,600 years ago, only a millennium after the date in question. So we could assume it was navigable 11,600 years ago. But what about Atlantis being ‘in front’ of the straits? Indonesia and its neighbours are not in front of either Hormuz or the Bab-el-Mandeb, are they? Actually, I think it pertinent to consider the original Greek rendering of the phrase, which I’m reliably informed is:
“huper HĂȘrakleias stĂȘlas” [73]
‘Huper’ in time came to be rendered as ‘hyper’, and is a prefix we recognise in modern English as meaning ‘very much of’, ‘excessive’, etc., as in hypertension, hypermarket, and so forth [74]. The original Greek meaning of ‘hyper’ in the above context as an adverb is something on the lines of ‘beyond’, or ‘further out’ [75]. So the real meaning is probably nearer ‘beyond the Pillars of Heracles’ – i.e. some considerable distance away from the Strait, and not right next door to it. So, I hope I’ve illustrated that this does not in any way contradict a Southeast Asian location for Atlantis. Even Plato’s insistence that:
“this power came forth from the Atlantic” [76]
isn’t fatal to this theory, because we have no evidence that the Greeks thought that there was more than one ‘Ocean Sea’. The Phoenicians rounded the Horn of Africa as early as 595 BC [77], some 250 years before Plato’s Dialogues, so I’m sure the Greeks would have been aware of this. They had their ‘oikumene’, or known world, encircled by what they thought was an all-encompassing ocean. After all, wasn’t ‘the Ocean’ exactly what Alexander the Great (who came to power in Greece not too long after Plato’s time) sought in his arduous adventures as far eastward as India [78]? ‘Beyond the Pillars of Heracles’ would therefore have meant anywhere in this ‘Ocean Sea’.
Also, another big clue is given in the source of the Atlantis story – ancient Egypt itself. Now, what could possibly link ancient Egypt with Southeast Asia? Well, is it not the case that the Egyptians considered their ‘paradise’, or ‘primeval homeland’, where their civilizing heroes such as Thoth and Osiris originated, as being far away to the East, ‘in the sea of the Rising Sun’ [79]? And this brings me back to the subject of Angkor Wat in modern Cambodia, which as I’ve speculated earlier in this essay could have been originally ‘ear-marked’ by refugees escaping the flooded plains to the south. Graham Hancock suggests in Heaven’s Mirror that if a meridian (line of longitude) is drawn through Giza in Egypt (the site of the Pyramids), Angkor is almost exactly 72o east of it [80]. But suppose that the Giza site had been chosen by the ‘civilizers’ of the Egyptians because it was 72o west of a meridian running through Angkor….Oh, no! I’m beginning to sound like Graham himself now! I knew I shouldn’t have started reading his books! Only kidding :)
Still not convinced? Well, consider the following description of the Egyptians’ ‘Abode of the Blessed’:
“situated away beyond a large expanse of water” [81]
Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, the eminent Egyptologist, noted this regarding how to reach the said ‘abode’:
“the Egyptians believed that this land could only be reached by means of a boat, or by the personal help of the gods” [82]
And intriguingly (very!), in an almost Plato-esque fashion, that it consisted of:
“rectangular in shape, and that it was intersected by canals supplied from the stream by which the whole region was enclosed” [83]
So what could Plato’s account of a ‘war’ be based on? Wallis Budge reasoned that the Egyptian legend of the god Horus avenging his father Osiris, by defeating his ‘evil’ uncle Set could have been based on historical events, given that Horus was aided by followers rendered as ‘blacksmiths’:
“It is, of course, impossible to say who were the blacksmiths that swept over Egypt from south to north, or where they come from, but the writer believes that they represent invaders in predynastic times, who made their way into Egypt from a country in the East, by way of the Red Sea…..They brought with them the knowledge of working in metals and of brickmaking, and having conquered the indigenous peoples in the south [ie. the city of Edfu] then proceeded to conquer and occupy other sites”[84]
So could this have been the ‘war’ which engulfed Egypt that Plato based his account in Timaeus on? And what of Critias, which the philosopher never finished, but left incomplete with this intriguing passage regarding the Greek god Zeus’ response to the Atlanteans’ increasingly decadent lifestyle?
“Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows…” [85]
Can we speculate that Plato had in mind the following utterance by the god Thoth in the Egyptian Book of the Dead when he wrote the above?
“They have fought fights, they have upheld strifes, they have done evil, they have created hostilities, they have made slaughter, they have caused trouble and oppression….[therefore] I am going to blot out everything which I have made. This earth shall enter into the watery abyss by means of a raging flood, and will become even as it was in primeval time.” [86]
Then we have the mentions in Plato’s Dialogues of a large land mass, disappearing for ever under the flood; a shallow sea left in its place; lush, fertile soil; tropical climate; herds of elephants; an abundance of metals; early engagement in agriculture and irrigation; construction of mandalic edifices; an extensive trading network….
Is this a case of coincidence? Or does Sundaland actually fit the bill?
Take your pick!
Thanks for reading.
Sunil Prasannan

“My world is filled with oceans, oceans of fantasy” - Boney M.

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References:
1. http://www.atlan.org/(webmaster Arysio Nunes dos Santos)
2. Graham Hancock, Fingerprints of the Gods, Century Books, 2001 (reprint), pp.487-488.
3. Graham Hancock, Underworld, Penguin Books, 2002, p.53.
4. Stephen Oppenheimer, Eden in the East, Phoenix Books, 1999 (reprint), p.10.
5. Underworld, p.56.
6. Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of the World, Rand McNally & Co., 1994, pp.166-167.
7. Readers Digest Atlas of the World, Readers Digest Association Ltd., 1989, p.32.
8. http://www.activemind.com/Mysterious/Topics/Atlantis/timaeus_and_critias.html (webmaster Bradley Keys)
9. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
10. Ibid.
11. Critias as reproduced in 8.
12. Discussed at length in Underworld, chapter 3.
13. Ibid., p.52.
14. Eden in the East, pp.82-83.
15. Ibid., p.83.
16. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
17. Ibid.
18. Critias as reproduced in 8.
19. Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of the World, pp.166-167.
20. Fingerprints of the Gods, op. cit., p.233.
21. Critias as reproduced in 8.
22. Timaeus and Critias, Penguin Classics, 1977, p.39, as reproduced in Graham Hancock, The Sign and the Seal, Arrow Books, 1997 (Reprint), p.320.
23. Critias as reproduced in 8.
24. Ibid.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid.
27. Ibid.
28. ITN Factbook, Michael O’Mara, 1990, p.252.
29. Ibid., p.330.
30. Critias as reproduced in 8.
31. Ibid.
32. Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of the World, pp.166-167.
33. Critias as reproduced in 8.
34. Readers Digest Atlas of the World, p.111.
35. A-Z Road Atlas of Great Britain, Geographer’s A-Z Map Co. Ltd., 1998, p.81.
36. Critias as reproduced in 8.
37. Eden in the East, pp.83-85.
38. Ibid., p476.
39. Critias as reproduced in 8.
40. Eden in the East, pp.476-478.
41. Ibid., p.77.
42. Ibid., p.154.
43. Ibid., pp.208-211.
44. Ibid., p.213.
45. Underworld, op. cit., pp.179-180.
46. Ibid., p.180.
47. Ibid., pp.262-263.
48. Ibid., p.180.
49. Ibid., p.496.
50. Ibid., p.460.
51. Ibid., chapter 14.
52. Ibid., chapter 27.
53. Critias as reproduced in 8.
54. Ibid.
55. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Clarendon Press (Oxford), 1989, Volume X, p.929.
56. Project Underground website
57. Times Atlas and Encyclopaedia of the Sea, Times Books, 1989, p.113.
58. see 56.
59. Critias as reproduced in 8.
60. Graham Hancock, Heaven’s Mirror, Penguin Books, 1999 (reprint), p.122.
61. Ibid, p.128.
62. Ibid., p.133.
63. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
64. Ibid.
65. Critias as reproduced in 8.
66. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
67. Times Atlas of World History, 4th Edition, Times Books, 1993, pp.66-67.
68. Underworld, chapter 15.
69. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
70. Rand McNally Illustrated Atlas of the World, pp.160-161.
71. Ibid., p.160.
72. Underworld, op. cit., pp.44-45.
73. Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek on-line.
74. Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary.
75. see 73.
76. Timaeus as reproduced in 8.
77. Robert H. Fuson, Legendary Islands of the Ocean Sea, Pineapple Press, 1995, p.9, cited in Underworld, p.480.
78. John Keay, India: a History, Harper Collins, 2001, p.71.
79. Eden in the East, pp.349-350, p.405.
80. Discussed at length in both Underworld (chapter 30) and Heaven’s Mirror (chapter 14).
81. Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, Medici Society Ltd., 1911, Volume I, p.98.
82. Ibid, p.98.
83. Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Heaven and Hell, Dover Publications Inc., 1996 (republication of 1905 original), Volume III, p.43.
84. Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians, Dover Publications Inc., 1969 (republication of 1904 original), Volume I, p.485.
85. Critias as reproduced in 8.
86. Quoted in Wallis Budge’s From Fetish to God in Ancient Egypt, Oxford Uni. Press, 1940, p.198, cited by Graham Hancock in The Sign and the Seal, Arrow Books (1997 reprint), references to chapter 13, p.563.
Sources: http://www.grahamhancock.com/archive/underworld/DrSunilAtlantis.php

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